Binghamton’s rich baseball history dates back to its first professional team, the Binghamton Bingos, in 1885. Known as the Binghamton Mets, the Eastern League, Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets from 1992 until 2016, a rebirth of the franchise is underway in 2017. Under new ownership, a rebrand has taken place in an effort to tie the team closer to the community and its history. We spoke with Rumble Ponies General Manager Jim Weed to discuss the new era in Binghamton baseball and what’s in store for fans.
Prior ownership had been looking to sell for quite some time and rumors of a sale and relocation were swirling in 2015. In the end, it was the late emergence of new owner John Hughes and his commitment to Binghamton from day one that put to rest any relocation concerns.
“There was a lot of speculation. In today’s age, speculation turns into what people think is fact real quickly. It wasn’t as far along as people had thought. We kept saying let’s let everything play out. John Hughes emerged in late 2015 to buy the club. One of the first things he said was ‘I don’t have any plans of relocating this club. We want to expand and grow this franchise.’ That put all that stuff to bed. It eased the minds of the fans in the area.”
The team was known as the Binghamton Mets from 1992 until 2016. With new ownership in place and a commitment to Binghamton, the decision was made to rebrand the franchise.
“One of the first people we reached out to when we were going to do this was the New York Mets. We wanted to make sure that they were on board with it before we decided to do it. We said that it was something that we’d like to do, but we’re not looking to damage a relationship. They said they were behind it. Knowing that we had their blessings on this, made it that much easier. We’re still the Double-A New York Mets, that hasn’t changed. We have different logos and different jerseys, but those guys playing out there are future Mets.”
Part of the minor league baseball fan experience is aimed towards children, entertainment, and the local community. While the Mets name stands out on its own, Rumble Ponies brings more excitement to younger fans. The community and its history impacted the process of rebranding the club.
“That process started in early 2016 when we floated it out there. We had a campaign with over 1500 submissions. We were asking people if they had a unique name to give us a description. That’s when we got together with Brandiose.”
The submissions were narrowed down to six finalists with Binghamton remaining as the city name: Bullheads, Gobblers, Rocking Horses, Rumble Ponies, Stud Muffins and Timber Jockeys. Ultimately, the fans voted and the Rumble Ponies were selected as their new identity.
“The Rumble Ponies really gives you that hometown identity. That was really important for our owner. We want to make sure that our identity is something that our community can be proud of. At the same time, saying we are tied to the Mets.
A local woman had said that as a child that she rode the carousels with her grandfather and now she takes her own kids there. The memories that she created. She always felt these horses were fierce. At night when everyone was sleeping, they rumbled through town. She had a neat story behind it.
Some of the anxiety to begin with when people saw ponies and thought it was childish. It really isn’t when you add rumble to it. It’s more of a fierce type of horse. It’s still kid friendly but gives it that fierce competitor. It ties the whole thing in nicely.”
Many professional ballparks have come and gone or have seen significant improvements. After 24 years, NYSEG Stadium has received $2.5 million in upgrades through grants and ownership funds. These improvements include a party deck, a family area, new bullpen, batting cages, stadium lighting, tickets kiosks, and administrative office improvements.
“We’re real excited. We have a brand new party deck down the right field line. On the left field side, we’ve got some new terrace seating with picnic tables. That’s our family section. We’ve renovated all of our suites. The new batting cage in right field has a glass façade on the front so fans can walk up and see what’s going on in the cage. There’s a brand new barbecue stand out there with seats around it. There’s a brand new fun zone for the kids. When you look at the signage everything ties into the brand. Our goal is to create that alternate universe, where people can come and forget about their everyday life and have a good time. It’s about creating that fun atmosphere.”
With improvements to the ballpark experience and an exciting identity, the Rumble Ponies want fans to have a memorable experience at NYSEG Stadium.
“We want to treat our fans like they’re VIP’s. Whether it’s their first trip to the ballpark or they’ve been coming here for 25 years. We want everyone to feel special when they come here. They’re here to make memories.”
*Photo Credit: Binghamton Rumble Ponies